US bizjet activity hits post-pandemic high, Europe well back

18 Mar 2021

Issuing date: March 18th, 2021

According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker 

On 15th March, the post-pandemic rolling 7-day activity in the US peaked at 6,002 daily sectors; that is the second highest daily activity since January 2020.  Operators in the European market will be hoping to see the same effect when restrictions are finally lifted this summer, especially in the UK where business jet sectors are down 62%.


Business aviation activity is holding up in March 2021, with 177,835 flights in the first half of the month down by 2% compared to the first half of March 2020, the final period before the pandemic response imposed widespread travel restrictions. Global airline activity is down by 38% compared to the first 2 weeks of March last year. This is an improvement on recent weeks, partly because total flight activity in Asia is now up 30%, bouncing off the activity lows from last year, when the region was already in various levels of lockdown. Global cargo activity continues to grow, up 17% on March 2020 in terms of sectors operated.

Chart 1 – Global scheduled, cargo, business aviation flight activity Jan-Feb-Mar 2021

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United States:

More than 80% of this month’s worldwide business aviation flights originated in the North American market. The United States is recovering fastest, with the first half of March up by 0.5% in terms of sectors, trailing 2% in flight hours. In comparison with the March 2020 period immediately preceding the lockdown in the US, business jet traffic is up in Private, Fractional, Management and Branded Charter activity. Fractional activity is up by most, with 4% overall gain, 10% growth in Light Jets, 20% growth in Very Light Jets. NetJets and Flexjet are up this month, also smaller operators like AirShare and PlaneSense. Busiest airports for the Fractional operators are Palm Beach and Dallas Love Field.

The US charter market continues to be buoyant; up to the anniversary of the lockdowns, branded charter operators in the US have increased sectors by 3% in 2021. The Entry Level and Very Light Jets have very strong growth this year, sectors up by 20%. Midsize and Super midsize jet flight hours are up close to 10% compared to the pre-pandemic period. Heavy Jet operations in the charter market are still down by 12% and Ultra-Long-Range hours are down by 25%. The busiest US State for charter demand is Florida, with almost double the number of flights compared to next busiest, California, and with at least five airports in Florida seeing more than 25% growth in departures compared to last year.

Chart 2: Comparison of Scheduled and Business Aviation from New York, Jan-Feb-Mar 2021

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European flight activity is still well below pre-pandemic trends, with the total fleet declining more than 60% in the first half of March, airlines seeing the steepest drop, flights down by 72%. Business aviation is relatively robust at 16% below normal, cargo operations almost 15% up year on year. Private and corporate flight departments are by far the most robust, just 1% below normal this month. Recovery in private operations is most evident in Spain, Austria, Russia, Turkey and Italy, with the bounce in Italy already accounting for lockdowns in place a year ago. Looking across all business aviation operations, activity in Poland, Greece, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia is well ahead of the first half of March 2020.

At the European airport level, Vnukovo is the busiest airport for business jet activity this month, with a slight YOY increase, and with Le Bourget in second place, departures there down by 30% YOY. The busiest connection from Vnukovo is to Al Maktoum in Dubai, with next busiest connections to Sochi, St Petersburg, Riga, Kazan. There are some other European pairs with strong growth, with flights between Milan and Rome up by 80% on the lockdown period at the start of March last year. Also business jet flights between Larnaca and Tel Aviv are well up YOY. Across Europe this month, the Turboprop segment is the only one which shows some increase on early March 2020.

Chart 3: Business vs Scheduled pair deterioration, Moscow, Jan-Feb-Mar 2021

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Rest of World:

Outside Europe and the US, 53% of this month’s business aviation activity is turboprop, with much of this in Australia. For business jet traffic, Mexico is the busiest market, with sectors down by 20%, Canada next busiest, 31% less activity YOY. Brazil is also falling behind early-year trends this month. Meanwhile business jet activity in India, Nigeria, China, UAE is well up versus March 2020. There is clearly still strong leisure demand, with flights out of Turks and Caicos up by 26%, and Maldives arrivals up by more than 3 times compared to pre-pandemic (travel restrictions introduced March 12th 2020). Looking at the wider Asian region, the 7-day rolling average activity is back up to Feb-2020 levels.

Categories: COVID Recovery


The WINGX Daily TRACKER provides you with a daily-updated dashboard on all business aviation flights operated globally.